CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept 21 (Reuters) – One person was shot dead on Wednesday in a second night of unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, officials said, as police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration against the fatal police shooting of a black man who officers said had refused their orders to drop a handgun.
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney confirmed the fatality, but he did not identify the person nor did he say whether they were participating in the protests.
The latest trouble began with a peaceful rally that turned violent after several hundred demonstrators marched through downtown with brief stops at a black church, police headquarters and a large entertainment venue called the EpiCentre.
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As they approached downtown Charlotte’s central intersection, protesters confronted a column of patrol cars and officers lining the road about a block from the Omni Charlotte Hotel, and began to surround groups of police and their vehicles.
At that point, police unleashed volleys of rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse the protesters, who began hurling fireworks and debris at officers outside the hotel.
Protesters were also seen looting a convenience store after smashing its windows.
Sixteen officers were injured late on Tuesday and early Wednesday as police in riot gear clashed with demonstrators who hurled stones, set fires and briefly blocked an interstate highway.
“We are tired of people, especially police, killing our black men,” Blanche Penn, a longtime community activist, said at Wednesday evening’s rally, where the mood began as resolute but peaceful. “Charlotte has always been quiet. But now it’s time to be loud.”
Widely differing accounts of Tuesday’s shooting emerged the next day. Police said Keith Scott, 43, was armed and ignoring officers’ orders when he was gunned down, while the victim’s family and a witness said he was holding a book, not a weapon.
Authorities have not released any video of the incident, but the city’s mayor said they plan to.
Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, issued a statement describing her family as “devastated” and appealing for calm, adding, “we have more questions than answers about Keith’s death.”
Tuesday’s disturbances in Charlotte unfolded as demonstrators in Tulsa, Oklahoma, demanded the arrest of a police officer seen in video last week fatally shooting an unarmed black man who had his hands in clear view at the time.
The deaths were the latest incidents to raise questions of racial bias in U.S. law enforcement, and they stoked a national debate on policing ahead of the presidential election in November. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with the mayors of Charlotte and Tulsa, a White House official said. (Additional reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton in Tulsa, Okla., Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C., Emily Flitter in Cleveland, Amanda Becker in Orlando, Fla., and Gina Cherelus and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Daniel Wallis; Editing by James Dalgleish and Alan Crosby)